SPOKANE, Washington – A man with extensive ties to white supremacists pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges he planted a bomb along a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Washington state early this year.
Kevin Harpham reached a deal with federal prosecutors for a recommended sentencing range of 27 to 32 years in prison just days before his trial was to begin in U.S. District Court.
The pipe bomb was loaded with lead fishing weights coated in a chemical, prosecutors said.
The 37-year-old said it took him a month to build the bomb, and he acknowledged placing the bomb along the parade route in an attempt to commit a hate crime.
The backpack bomb was discovered by parade and disabled before it could explode last Jan. 17, preventing what otherwise might have been mass casualties, prosecutors said.
Harpham originally was charged with committing a hate crime, using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction and unauthorized possession of an unregistered explosive device. He could have faced up to life in prison.
The deal was accepted by U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush.
Harpham, of Addy, Wash., is an Army veteran who has extensive ties to white supremacist groups but no record of past crimes.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has said that Harpham made more than 1,000 postings on a racist website called the Vanguard News Network. The center also has said that Harpham belonged to a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance.
Harpham served from 1996 to 1999 in the U.S. Army at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Washington. His lawyers have said Harpham had not been recently employed.
He has remained in the Spokane County Jail without bail since his arrest.
Prosecutors recently revealed that Harpham took pictures of young black children gathering for the march and of a Jewish man who was wearing a yarmulke.
The hate crime charge, used for the first time in the Eastern District of Washington, contended Harpham targeted the parade in downtown Spokane “because of actual or perceived race, color and national origin of any person.”